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7 deadly sins of being “unintentional” with your facilities

If you have read my blog for long or follow me on social media, you know that I have 100% embraced the word (and its meaning) INTENTIONAL. We call our initial visioning session the “Intentional Workshop.” We have developed the “Intentional Church Series” manual, and I use the hashtag #intentional with most of my posts.

I believe in being intentional … deliberate … on purpose.

By Tim Cool

The concept of “unintentional” was reinforced even more this past week when reading Leviticus 2:4 where the “law” addresses the steps a person had to take to be forgiven from Unintentional Sin.

George R. Knight, professor of church history at Andrews University Theological Seminary (Berrien Springs, Michigan), explains this passage (being unintentional) this way, “You have missed, not because you are wicked, but because you are stupid, silly, careless, inattentive, perhaps lazy, or more probably because you do not possess the proper aim in life.”

Did you catch those key words? Stupid … silly … inattentive … perhaps lazy … lack of proper aim. I know we have all been guilty of being unintentional in many areas of our lives, so I’m not pointing fingers.

The reason I’m so passionate about “intentionality” is because I have seen too many churches and organizations be unintentional — especially with their facilities. We’re not going to discuss or debate if these actions (or lack there of) are “sins” of omission or commission. That’s for another day.

As I’ve reflected on the horror stories, significant missteps and resulting un-intentionality, there are seven primary “sins” I’ve seen churches commit related to their facilities:

#1: Not facing reality

Lord have mercy … this is by far the most deadly sin. I shudder at how many times I’ve had churches tell me they have “faith” to design / plan a facility that far exceeds their financial capability, or they think they’re the “fringe case” that will be able to build their facility for 20& to 50% lower than the market conditions reflect. REALLY?!?!?!?!

Equally horrifying are the churches that fail to understand the difference between the Building Budget and the TOTAL PROJECT Budget. Huge difference. Not facing the realities of the facility design, construction cost, Total Project costs, borrowing capacity, etc. = death to a project. Period! I’ve witnessed thousands of churches that thought they could “beat the odds” of reality and ended up with a set of plans in the pastor’s trunk of failed projects. (That’s right: plural.)

#2: A “build it and they will come” mentality

Thought this worked great for Kevin Costner, I’ve rarely seen this work for a church (except in a very, very, very rare instance). A building is only a tool to assist your church to fulfill its vision and mission; it’s NOT an outreach tool or growth strategy.

#3: A DIY (or “I know a guy”) approach

How many pastors and church leaders do you know who went to seminary to study architecture, construction or facility management? Not many!

In addition, churches constantly tell me they “know a guy.” With rare exception, that’s a formula for disaster. As I meet with churches, it becomes painfully obvious which groups took a DIY mentality in designing and building a facility, as well as managing the life cycle of the facility. I have a client in Charlotte that adopted the DIY management style for caring for the maintenance of its facility. The trustees would personally do most of the work. As such, they have a 45-year-old facility with millions of dollars of deferred maintenance. That’s poor stewardship of what God entrusted to your church.

#4: Lack of capital reserve

Nearly every component of your facility will be replaced at some point in the life cycle of the facility. That’s not a “Tim-ism” — it’s a fact of how God’s natural system of physical deterioration works. You can’t avoid it.

So, with that as the overarching reality, wouldn’t it be prudent to save money for these known expenditures? This isn’t an “if” equation, but “when.” Plan accordingly.

#5: Being reactive vs. proactive

The majority of churches our team meets with are in reactionary mode. They’re so consumed with the here and now that they’re not being proactive and thinking about what they can do today to save time, money and other resources in the future. Being proactive is less expensive than being reactive.

#6: Not keeping records for the next generation (or the next hire)

The most common process for documenting facility management issues at a church is found captive in the mind of the current facility manager. The next most common is the legal pad and Post-it notes. While this might be effective (not efficient) for the current staff, it’s a poor way to plan for the future.

What’s your “get hit by a truck” strategy? What if your facility director gets hit by a truck, or has a heart attack, or just quits tomorrow? Where’s all that knowledge and information stored so that they next employee — and future generations — can access that data?

#7: Lack of planning

While I’ve listed this as #7, I believe that if we had a list of only 1 Deadly Sin, this would be it. Almost all the above items could be a sub-point of this.

Planning is at the heart of every successful initiative. Whether considering purchasing land / buildings, leasing a facility, designing, financing, building and caring for a facility, the lack of planning can be the death blow (or at least a major setback or hindrance) to your church. Unintentionality is simply a lack of planning.

I’m sure we could develop a much more exhaustive list, but these are the biggies for me.

Are you being unintentional or intentional? I know I don’t want to have to answer to my leaders and God (remember, we are HIS stewards of what He has entrusted to us) about being stupid, silly, lazy or inattentive.


TimCool-newphotoTim Cool is founder of Cool solutions Group, and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures;Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Spaceand Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled “Intentional Church.”


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